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French Top 14: Racing Metro 92 v Clermont Auvergne Preview
We preview Saturday's Top 14 clash between French giants Racing Metro and Clermont Auvergne.
Amid the turmoil and controversy of their proposed merger with Parisian rivals Stade Francais, Racing 92’s rescheduled game against the second-placed Clermont this Saturday promises to be one hell of a spectacle.
Racing Metro v Clermont Auvergne | Saturday 25 March | Stade Olympique Yves-du-Manoir | 15:45
To Win (80 mins)
Racing 4/10 | Draw 17/1 | Clermont 19/10
When Racing president Jacky Lorenzetti announced last Monday that his club had reached an agreement with Stade Francais to merge together and form one side, the hostile reception that it was met with was second-to-none – and understandably so. Stade’s players, led by veteran Pascal Pape’, staged a revolt and threatened to boycott their next game against Castres to demonstrate their disgust – which they proceeded to do. Pape’ described the proposed merger as a ‘Racing take-over in disguise’, as he, along with numerous other people associated with Stade, believed the much richer Racing would invariably assume complete control over the ‘new club’. With both Stade and Racing’s fixtures against Castres and Montpellier postponed respectively, they will resume this weekend’s fixtures with much riding on their results.
Racing have been abysmal this season and, twenty games in, last season’s champions find themselves sitting in ninth position. A loss of form to various key players, as well as controversy off the pitch ( Johan Goosen, Dan Carter and now the merger debacle) have ultimately led to some very average performances. With Dimitri Szarzewski’s men now also out of Europe, they will focus all of their attention on their domestic performances until the season comes to a close.
Having gone down in four of their last six matches in all competitions, it may be a tough ask for this Racing side to bring down a powerful Clermont unit this weekend. A lot will have to go their way to get a win this weekend. A hell of a lot.
As per usual, this Clermont machine continues to grind out impressive wins in their round-robin fixtures. However, despite some fabulous wins this season, Clermont sit in second place and find themselves a mammoth eight points behind the high-flying La Rochelle, who are having a dream season. Stand-in skipper Morgan Parra will want a repeat of last weekend’s performance (a 65-13 demolition of Pau), where his forwards played a bruising brand of rugby to set the platform for his backs to express their talents (which they did, as no fewer than five backline members crossing the whitewash).
Scott Spedding made a welcome return from Six Nations action with a try off the bench, while former Saracens man, David Strettle, as well as former European Player of the Year, Nick Abendanon also nabbed five-pointers of their own. The confidence of the Clermont backs will stand them in good stead against a Racing side that has been haemorrhaging tries of late. Expect ‘Les Jaunards’ to exploit Racing’s defensive frailties this weekend.
Verdict: Clermont 19/10
I can only see a confident Clermont take down of a lacklustre Racing this weekend. Ten points or more.